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Semicolon & Colon Rules


Semicolon Used to Join Two Complete Sentences

Example 1: Mary ate dinner; the dinner tasted exquisite.

Example 2: By age 15, Ivan had cooked 300 meals; by age 20, he had cooked twice that amount.

Semicolon Used with Words Like 'however" and Phrases Like "for example"

Example 1: Mary ate dinner; however, she was hungry an hour later.

Example 2: Mary's dinner was made with several spices; for example, the chicken was sprinkled with Cayenne pepper.

Semicolon Used to Clarify a List of Items When Each Item has Punctuation Within Itself

Mary's favorite dinner foods are chicken, with Cayenne pepper; salad, with Italian dressing; toast, with garlic and butter; and soup, with scallions, cheese, and mushrooms.

Colon Used to Further Explain or Introduce a List

Further Explanation with Two Sentences: Mary's dinner reminded her of the back yard: both contained many wonderful colors and smells.

Further Explanation with a List: Mary's dinner consisted of the following: salad, soup, chicken, and toast.

Further Explanation with a Quotation: The words Ivan spoke were very kind: "Mary, I made this dinner especially for you, dear."

Colon Used with Ratios, Titles and Subtitles of Books, City and Publisher in Bibliographies, Hours and Minutes, and Formal Letters

Ratio: Mary's ratio of carbohydrate intake to protein was 3:1.

Titles and Subtitles: Mary enjoys reading the book Tastebud Heaven: Homemade Meals for the Distinguished Palette.

City and Publisher in Bibliography: New York: Norton, 1999

Hours and Minutes: Mary ate dinner at 9:12.

Formal Letters: Dear Editor:  

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